Summary: Even When Our Hair Goes Gray (Or Away)… 1) Believers have refuge 2) Believers have purpose
What do Ralph Klein (premier of Alberta), Andre Agassi (pro tennis player), and Cassie Campbell (Canadian gold medalist in hockey) have in common? They are famous people who recently retired. What do you suppose their retirement speech or “swan song” was about? Not surprisingly each spoke about their accomplishments and thanked their fans for supporting them.
What will your swan song be like? Will you spend the final years of your life trumpeting your accomplishments? Or will you, perhaps, speak about how hard life has been? What tone does God want our swan song to take? Our sermon text this morning gives us some direction on the matter for Psalm 71 seems to be the swan song of King David. David’s song is filled with hope for he assures us that even when our hair goes gray (or away), believers have refuge, and purpose.
While Klein, Agassi, and Campbell seem assured of a comfortable retirement, King David’s experience tells us that even rich and powerful people often face their life’s greatest struggles in what is supposed to be one’s “golden” years. Psalm 71 seems to have been written in response to the threat David faced from his fourth son, Adonijah (1 Kings 1). Like his half-brother Absalom before him, Adonijah tried to steal the hearts of the people so that David’s throne would become his. To Adonijah this didn’t seem like it would be difficult to accomplish because his father was weak and old. Why, he couldn’t even get along without that homecare nurse, Abishag. Accordingly David wrote of the threat: “…my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together. 11 They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him” (Psalm 71:10, 11).
Where would you turn for help if you learned that your children we’re trying to get rid of you? You might call the police or members of your family you could trust. David did neither. Although he had bodyguards to protect him David turned to the Lord. In the midst of his trouble David sang: “1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. 2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. 3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 4 Deliver me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of evil and cruel men. 5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. 6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb... 9 Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone” (Psalm 71:1-6a, 9).
David reminds us that even when our hair goes gray, we have refuge. No, we may not have the strength to fight or think as quickly on our feet as we did in our youth but what does it matter? The God who has been with us since before birth remains our fortress in old age. David was convinced that just as God had been there for him when he fought lion and bear to save his father’s sheep; just as God had been there when he toppled Goliath; and just as God had been there through all the battles he had fought; he would be there now as Adonijah threatened.
God remains your fortress today too. Just as God provided for you when you raised a family even though you didn’t always know where the money would come from to put food on the table, God will provide for you now even when the landlord wants to increase your rent, or the only time family seems to visit is when they want something from you. No, having God as our fortress doesn’t mean we won’t face troubles. But with God as our fortress we are certain that our troubles won’t be the final word in our life. David confessed in his swan song: “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 21 You will increase my honor and comfort me once again” (Psalm 71:20, 21).
Yes, life is filled with troubles, many of them bitter as David described, but what else did David say God would do for us? He said that in time God would restore us. I suppose we could think of God as a developer who buys a block of derelict houses. His plan isn’t to tear down the houses to put in a parking lot or convenience store. He wants to restore those homes to their former glory; actually he wants to make them nicer than they ever were. But that of course means gutting the homes, ripping up the carpet, and stripping off wallpaper previous owners had put up to hide stains. When God goes to work in us like that it hurts and we may wonder whether or not he really loves us. We can be certain that he does, however, because he bought us with the blood of his Son with the intent of living in us himself. God’s work with us will finally be complete only after he raises us from the dead and David said God would do just that. So not just when our hair goes gray, but even when life goes away, believers in Jesus have refuge.